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The association between Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine and personification of emotion over reason, and the disciplined style of power metal might seem an odd one, but for the band that took the name, it worked quite well. The resulting music of said band walked a rather conventional road when it came to embracing the Swedish flavor associated with most of its membership, but also possessed a sense of romanticism and lyrically free-spirited quality that was fitting for the care free qualities associated with the deity of the grape harvest. Arguably the chief draw of Dionysus as a force in the power metal world of the early 2000s, which was the undisputed high point of the style, is the showcasing of vocalist Olaf Hayer, the band's lone German representative, who's name had already been cemented into the scene with a breakout performance on Luca Turilli's first solo studio outing King Of The Nordic Twilight, but the overall tone and tenor of Sign Of Truth, Dionysus' own debut is definitely a collective success.
The musical parallels between what is going on here and a number of other prominent Swedish power metal acts of the day is pretty hard to miss, but they are repackaged in a way that was fairly unique by the standards of 2002. The ongoing impact of Yngwie Malmsteen's seminal late 80s studio works are about as easy to spot on here as they were on contemporary works out of Stormwind (also featuring keyboardist Kaspar Dahlqvist) and Narnia, as well as Belgium's answer to Yngwie Dushan Petrossi's more prolific outfit Iron Mask, and it is largely maintained by Dionysus in terms of tonality and tempo. However, the overall flavor of the production is a bit darker and heavier, almost to the point of becoming an accidental precursor to the heavier and less speedy approach that Masterplan would usher into the scene just a year later. Particularly in the case of the more overtly Judas Priest inspired elements heard on "Bringer Of Salvation" and the down tempo character of "Anthem" and "Walk On Fire", things are maybe just a tad out of character compared to most of the album, to speak nothing for the extremely light listening ballad "Don't Forget", which is pretty fluffy and sappy even by the standards of Tobias Sammet's take on the softer side of things at the time.
Nevertheless, the general rule of this album is in line with the older ways of power metal, where things are quick paced, the guitar/keyboard solo sections are prominent and loaded with notes, and the vocals defy the laws of gravity. The classically tinged and almost Freedom Call leaning fanfare of "Time Will Tell" doesn't quite match the high fantasy meets speed metal level of exaggeration of Stairway To Fairyland, but it definitely lands in a similar place. Similarly, subtle nods to the hook-based songwriting meshed with guitar gymnastics of Malmsteen's Odyssey is all over numbers like "Pouring Rain". This approach to metal meshed with classical themes continues in a bit more of a Stratovarius mode of structured speeding on "Sign Of Truth" and "Never Wait", though differing a bit from a typical song with Timo Tolkki at the guitar by having a flashier and busier set of riff work apart from the obligatory shred fests when the vocals drop out. Occasional intercessions of bass activity can be found here and there (though not as flashy as what Malmsteen would put forth), and the drum work is very busy, but overall the guitars and keyboards tend to gobble up most of the intricate parts, to speak nothing for some of the ear-shattering high notes that Olaf belts out on a fairly frequent basis.
A telltale sign of an era that has largely vanished from the power metal scene in favor of either an exaggerated sense of virtuosity on the Dragonforce end of things and a humbler, more restrained on in the likes of Sabaton and Powerwolf, Dionysus represents a different strain of power metal that had more of an eye to moderating the technical and simple aspects of the style rather than passing up one in favor of the other. Arguably more so than the case of the two albums that followed this one, Sign Of Truth is an exercise in well rounded power metal where ritual madness doesn't mean demolishing the entire Colosseum, and the songs tend to be moderate in length and mildly progressive in structure. It doesn't necessarily come off as being nuanced or deep at first glance given the typical excesses of the overall sub-genre, but comparatively speaking, it has a less abrupt character than what has been dominant in the past few years. It has a strong degree of staying power, though like a fine wine, this band tended to get better with the passage of time, and it shows on their subsequent albums.
Another hopelessly obsessed patient for the Power Metal Syndrome Clinic? Yeah, this is the case. Is it absolutely incurable? I hope so. And I, for one, don’t intend to treat these guys for their obsession. I, damn it, like this diagnosis no matter how common and contagious the disease is.
Though the personal case history dating from1999 is rather brief according to today’s criteria, Dionysus’s founding fathers are not unknown to the Heavy Metal World. Established by Ronny Milianowicz (ex. Sinergy), Olaf Hayer (Luca Turilli), Kaspar Dahlqvist (Stormwind), Johnny Öhlin and Nobby Noberg (Nation), this Swedish-German formation has released two studio albums by now “Sign of Truth” 2002 and “Anima Mundi” 2004.
Debut “Sign of Truth” is a brilliant specimen of today’s power metal stage. Recorded in “Studio Fulda”, which is best known for its productions with Edguy and Avantasia, the album was produced by mastermind Tobias Sammet and mixed by Tommy Newton (Keeper of the Seven Keys 1 & 2). I’m absolutely sure these names don’t need a special presentation and in themselves are indisputably a quality mark.
Though Time Will Tell is rather a trite title to be a promising start, the musical constituent is able to catch even the most sophisticated metal ear, especially due to its solidly built riffs and instantaneously gripping chorus. Actually, the guitar and keyboard endeavors here are quite exemplary throughout the album, though I do not a bit feel like derogating from others involved. I must admit that both drums and bass are not only perfectly mixed to mould a beautiful frame around the melodies but themselves create outstanding improvisations here and there. Vocalist Olaf Hayer also made his significant contribution on the album making an expose of all his singing talents and blowing off all his steam. There won’t be a shade of doubt that he worked through the whole album at the breaking point once you completely concentrate on his singing.
The title track, a speedier one, is just a model power song with a beautifully arranged guitar-keyboard solo (not the only one) duel in the middle. A sepulchral voice, as obscure as one can only fancy, jeers right at your face and your hair stands on end because of weakness and inevitability, but redemption is just around the corner with Bringer of Salvation at your service. This is where I’m ready to pay my compliments without a break. It’s an absolute appetizer for a real connoisseur of melody and might combined. Just a bridge alone can make you crave for more and more. This one will, no doubt, recompense the money you spend on the CD.
Not being highly competitive with its predecessor Pouring Rain is still a terrific song with magnificent riffs and subtle wow-wow hooks in the chorus that grab your attention once and for all. Anthem (for the children) is another gem of the album. Beginning with a dark Gregorian chanting in Latin it gradually grows into a majestic mid-tempo almost marching song able to maintain its medieval gloominess throughout the track. Its grand chorus does nothing but increases one’s thirst for more.
The following power pattern Holy War is yet another fast-pace track containing presumably the best guitar solo here, which starts with nearly Floydish flavor and insensibly accelerates into a passionate guitar triumph ever. Now Don’t Forget. This is where your mental fatigue and tension can be relieved to some extent as you are going to experience a first-class ballad with the refrain so catchy it will get stuck in your head for good. And if a guitar fingering in a mid-tempo Walk on Fire delusively keeps on raising you higher and higher up to the serene and the most of the track only serves as an intermediate catalyst, the following Never Wait with its power and energy will surely force you to come down to Earth with a bump. Loaded Gun, a bonus, doesn’t ruin an overall picture and is nothing else but a logical speedy addition to the whole album.
All in all, we have the whole bunch of good melodies plus perfect sound production in a pure power metal work with lots of adoptions that, nevertheless, by no means are a fly in the ointment. Quite the other way, they are exactly to the band’s advantage since they do emphasize and amend the axioms invented by such style Titans as Helloween or Gama Ray. Moreover, I wouldn’t palter if I said that the child has certainly outdone his parent in some respects borrowing and polishing up his best features. If speaking of other similarities, Johny’s guitars here remind me of Rage’s Victor Smolsky and Metalium’ s Henning Basse’s vocals would be the closest comparison to those of Olaf’s, though both Johny and Olaf are unique in their own way. No doubt, the band itself is quite exemplary and could easily serve as an object for imitation. I’m firmly confirmed it’s one of those releases that help us remain the truly followers of the genre. So, if you’re a fan of genuine power metal, in the strict sense of the wording, you should get your hands on this album even if it’s a kind of retrospection by now!
I never liked Anima Mundi, not at all. Thus I was quite dubious to get Sign of Truth, which apparently was worse than Amina Mundi. I was then surprised. There was not the fluffy, synth-pop power metal I had heard before, no blown-up keyboard balloon. Here there actually some substance, riffs that stick to your head instead of a constant chorus filled with artificial chords. Perhaps it’s as easy as Sign of Truth was produced by Tobias Sammet, who should be credited for a few amazing power metal albums. Anima Mundi was produced by Jens Bogren. I don’t know how fluffy he’s as a person, but he sure changed the music.
All in all, Sign of Truth is more traditional as opposed to fluffy and flower-esque. The music reminds of bands like Helloween and Edguy. The latter most probably because of Mr. Sammet. The Helloween/speed factor is only to be found on this Dionysus album.
Dionysus’ biggest asset is the fantastic vocal work of Olaf Hayer’s, but this time this isn’t the only redeeming feature. He has competition from the guitarist’s Helloween-inspired riffing and his competent solos. Yes he actually plays something of substance this time, and the bassist does too. His lines are well placed and even recorded through an amplifier this time! Well the drums could’ve been better of course, if there just wasn’t such an amount of double-bass. Even the keyboards are placed more scarcely, and more competently. It’s of course more than Helloween has, but much less than Rhapsody, or even their next album.
This concept, while not totally original works to an extent, reaching its climax in the sovereign Anthem for the Children, revealing the best guitar work I’ve heard from Dionysus and coming in the slower, heavier anthem-package that seems to be what Dionysus does best. The moment of joy is short-lived though, as Anthem for the Children is quickly followed by Holy War. Obviously the cheese in the lyrics has taken the overhand, and invaded the song structure, the melody and triggered the growth of some double-bass bacteria. It is horrible, watered-out and… - well just as one would think that a power metal song called ‘Holy War’ would be. The songs after Holy War are all fillers.
Dionysus is straight out power metal with a hint of neo-classical infulence. This album is pretty good, I would rank it up there with a lot of quality power metal albums. It starts off really good, but it slows down towards the end. Production is good, vocals are good, the riffs are standard power metal style, but the soloing is awsome, and a lot better than some of the power metal guitarists out there. There is a hint of neo-classic in Dionysus guitar solo's, but besides that the riffs, drumming, and singing sound a lot like Edguy.
The first song Time Will Tell opens this album with an impression of straight power metal. The sounds of violins mixed with guitars and then a blazing riff is pure equation for power metal. Instantely as the vocals come in you will think Edguy, or as Nightcrawler pointed out, Helloween. Like I said before, the solo's are total neo-classical worship, which is hearbale on this first song. The chorus sounds a lot like the song All The Clowns (Edguy- Tears of the Mandrake).
The next couple songs have some awsome riffs that are fast, sweet, and very edgy. The tempo in each song varies; one song will sound like Edguy, but the next song will sound like Primal Fear! A very nice mix up. Despite these tempo changes the drummer does double bass throughout this album. He must really be tired at the end, cause it is almost nonstop. All the songs are pretty good up to and including Don't Forget. All these songs are catchy (sometimes cheesy), great riffs and awsome solo's. There is even a keyboard solo on the song Bringer Of Salvation, which is really good.
Don't Forget is a nice change of pase. An acroustic guitar and a six minute ballad. The structure is nice; it reminds me a lot of Malmsteen's softer songs. Not bad, but after this song it all goes downhill. Walk On Fire, the next song, is realtively slow, and keeps the pase at where it was. The singing also starts to drop in quaility. While the beat is great, the song just lacks greatness. The next two songs are good songs, the last one being a bonus. Definetly some awsome speed riffing, but nothing much.
I liked this album a lot; while it doesn't open a new sound of power metal, it copies different styles and smashes them togther. If you like Malmsteen, Edguy, Helloween, or Pell you will probably like this stuff. All the songs up to and including Don't Forget are killer! Recommended to power metal fans!
Now here's an interesting band. The lineup contains a few quite well known musicians, those being Olaf Hayer on vocals (also from Luca Turilli), Ronny Milianowicz on drums (also from Sinergy) and Kaspar Dahlqvist on keyboards (also from the Swedish power metal band Stormwind). Then we have Johnny Öhlin on guitars and Nobby Noberg on bass.
They make a solid lineup, and with Sign of Truth they have released a great debut. So there's the history lesson, on to the music.
There's nothing really original about these, but they're not an exact copy of another band, which is always a good thing. A good comparison could be made with late Helloween, if anything. Memorable and often quite uplifting melodies and choruses, great soloing and riffing. Some of the riffs would not have been out of place on The Dark Ride, mainly from the songs Bringer of Salvation, Anthem (For the Children) and the title track.
There are more keyboards than in bands like Helloween, creating a neo-classical sound, but they're used overly much like in Rhapsody.
There's a good amount of bass, and it's very well played. The drummer does his job, but he seems to rely a bit much on the double bass for the most part. There's alot of pounding double bass rhythms during the verses and choruses, which is not a bad thing, but he doesn't do much else, and it gets a bit boring.
Most of the songs have the same old vers-chorus-vers-chorus-solo-chorus pattern, which is something that often gets on my nerves, and this is no exception. Half of the songs have a bridge of some sort, but half of those seem quite forced, and put there just to keep the songs interesting. They need to change the pattern in the songs a bit. That's one of my biggest complaints about this band. Aside from that, everything works damn fine. The songs in themselves have a nice flow and don't get boring, all of the choruses are very memorable and the songs have great variation. Time Will Tell, the opening track, is very happy and uplifting while Anthem (For the Children) and Bringer of Salvation are of the darker kind. We also have a few ballad-like songs, but only one true ballad, that being Don't Forget. It's very soft, quite happy, and it's not just your average cheesy power metal ballad, there's not much power about it at all.
To name a few highlights would be hard, it's a very even album and all songs are solid one way or another. But Time Will Tell, Bringer of Salvation, the Rhapsody-ish Holy War and the closing song Never Wait are all killer.
So what we have here is a very solid debut from a promising power metal band which will hopefully go on for a while. It's not the best power metal album ever, but definitely worth it if you have some spare money.